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CRUISE PLUS: THE CRITIC
CRUISE PLUS: THE CRITIC
‘I think Diamond Princess is now more at
home in Japanese waters than in Australia.’
Princess Cruises has spent around
US$30 million on the refurbishment
of Diamond Princess, and the 10-year-
old ship is certainly sparkling as a result.
Some of this money was spent on a lavish
Japanese bath house and the beautifully
designed Kai Sushi restaurant, obviously
aimed at the cruise line’s increasing Asian
market share. But this raises an interesting
point about how cruise lines approach their
My wife, Sandra, and I take upwards
of six cruises a year. We like to think of
ourselves as international travellers.
But when we are at home in Australia,
we expect our cruise lines to respect the
fact that when we board in Melbourne and
disembark in Sydney, we are probably after
an “Australian” cruise. And that is our major
criticism of Diamond Princess. As the saying
goes: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Take the Kai Sushi restaurant. It is
outstanding; pricing is a la carte, though not
expensive. Elegant, sophisticated, excellent
ser vice. But it is not well patronised on my
cruise, where the average age is over 60. The
restaurant only has a handful of diners each
evening, more at lunch... one could call it a
ver y hidden gem.
after 11.30 with very little to do. Not that
the ship doesn’t rock. The Crooners Bar is
very popular, with an excellent singer/pianist
who attracts crowds each night, but there
are not enough seats. Many watching have
to stand and so they soon move on. Similar
entertainment would have been appreciated
in some other bars.
Sabatini’s Italian Restaurant is full most
nights, and the service and food are first
class. But most passengers choose to dine
in the main restaurants where there is no
charge. Menus change daily and offer an
The Sterling Grill, open each evening, is
situated in the aft portion of Horizon Court
on Lido Deck. Shrimp cocktail, brie and
papaya quesadilla, clam chowder, and Caesar
salads are examples of starters. New York strip,
filet mignon, porterhouse steaks, rib-eyes, fish
of the day and baked chicken are standard
mains. I particularly love their prime rib,
which melts in my mouth. The cost of dining
in the specialty restaurants varies, but the
average is around $15 to $20 per person.
The main showroom puts on Vegas-
style shows (circa 1960) each night. Good
band, singers and dancers, though the
choreography is somewhat dated. These
shows only last 30 minutes. On all other
ships I have sailed on, the shows usually
run for at least 45 minutes. There are also
specialty performers in other lounges that
prove very popular.
But the main act on this ship is the bath
house. It has been written about endlessly
and is, indeed, a first at sea.
But it just doesn’t do it for me. Shower
cubicles have the same showerheads that I
have at home and the actual bath house is
really two giant hot tubs.
The bath house has gender-specific areas
that alternate daily so everyone can enjoy the
individual features. Outside, where swimsuits
are compulsory, both sexes can enjoy the
open-air hydrotherapy pool with a view of
the ship’s wake. There is a $10 fee for the
bath house, which is good
for about two hours’ use.
The cruise line
passenger accounts around
$12 per person per day for
tips; the same for children.
The tips, which are split
among the staff, may be
removed or modified at the
You need to remember
that all beverage charges
drink price, although on
the receipt you sign there
is a line marked “tips”.
This should read “additional tip”, as is the
case on most ships. I believe many cruisers
erroneously tip another 10-15 per cent,
making their tip around 25 per cent.
But it is at the reception desk/purser’s
office that I witness most passenger
I have been travelling
for many years, and no-one
could call me intolerant.
But the desks are staffed
mainly by Asians who
have English as a second
– or third – language. They
appear to have been be
hired for their Japanese-
Remember, we boarded
this vessel in Melbourne
and are disembarking in
Sydney. Princess is an
Aussie favourite. We are
expecting to feel right
High: Sabatini’s Italian – first-class
food and service.
Low: Early nights and no late-
night coffee and cake.
Best suited to: Those who are
most comfortable on vessels with
an international clientele.
Why I’m saying
Not for nothing does John Pond
have a column called Grumpy
Old Man. Here, he maintains
that Diamond Princess is a fine
cruise ship aimed squarely at the
Japanese market. Which is fine
by him... until she’s sailing in
I enjoy crab margarita, some
sensational udon noodles and
seafood, including a small lobster
tail, and green tea ice-cream with red beans
for dessert. Delicious!
But I believe Princess should change
its cuisine to “Asian Fusion” in Australian
waters. A combination of Thai, Chinese and
Japanese would, I am sure, be a sellout.
Diamond Princess cruises in Japanese
waters for much of the year. And it is
incredibly popular with the Japanese, who
are just discovering the delights of cruising.
But Australian cruisers are a breed apart.
They have particular needs.
Take the buffet. Excellent quality, best
sauce and condiments tray ever.
This is a very popular dining
area. Seating is well designed, no
complaints here. Staff are helpful and will
carry your dishes to your table, which is very
much appreciated by older patrons.
But it closes at 11.30pm. I would like to
see a small area here with a limited selection
of dishes that would remain open to 1am, as
some passengers like to enjoy a late coffee
and cake after the main show.
Entertainment and food, especially after
11.30pm, are virtually non-existent, except
for room service. The Japanese tend to get
up early and retire early. Not so Australians,
so you are destined to walk around the ship
So it is a shock that most Australian
passengers have trouble with the front-desk
staff ’s communication skills. They become
very frustrated and even angry.
On the two occasions when I deal
with this department, I have difficulty
communicating. It is the worst front-desk
experience I have had on any ship.
So while Diamond Princess is a fine ship,
ideal for those wanting all that a big ship has
to offer, I think she is now more at home in
Japanese waters than in Australia. For some,
that’s all part of the cruising adventure. For
others, as homeported ships become more
popular and lines like Carnival “Aussify”
their ships, it will be a challenge.
A chef prepares a
platter at the ship’s
Japanese Kai Sushi
It may not be to this
critic’s taste, but Diamond
Japanese bath house
leaves others in its wake
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you think that ships sailing around
Australian ports should be “Aussified” or
do you prefer an international ambience?
Tell us your views at cruisepassenger.com.au.
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